Complaint Filed Against Teacher Test

Teacher & Employment Testing

Leaders of the Committee for a Fair Licensing Procedure in New York City have filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charging that the demotion of many minority teachers for failure to pass the Educational Testing Service's NTE (formerly the National Teachers Exam) violates federal civil rights laws.


The educators, most with ten to fifteen years of experience and many having earned awards for teaching excellence, had received licenses from the now-defunct city Board of Examiners. To keep their positions, the successful teachers are now being forced to meet state requirements by passing either all three parts of the NTE, or replacement exams called the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST) and Assessment of Teaching Skills-Written (ATS-W), both manufactured by ETS competitor National Evaluation Systems (NES) (see Examiner, Fall/Winter 1995-96).


Represented by the non-profit Center for Constitutional Rights, the teachers want their classroom performance to outweigh scores on a test independent experts claim is biased and not job-related (see Examiner, Fall 1988). Data obtained from the New York Department of Education by FairTest, which is assisting the teachers, shows that 73% of whites passed the General Knowledge portion of the NTE in 1994-95 while only 32% of African Americans, 25% of Latinos, and 51% of Asian Americans reached the state-mandated cut-off score. The irrelevance of that portion of the NTE is revealed by the fact that more than half the candidates with Master's and Ph.D. degrees failed to post the required score. Initial data for the new NES exams, the LAST and ATS-W, indicate that these tests will also have a racially disparate impact.


Under EEOC rules, the agency has 180 days to investigate the complaint before further legal action can be taken. The teachers, however, are seeking permission to file suit in federal court on a faster timetable. In the meantime, many are working in temporary or per diem positions at substantially lower salaries.